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Prisoner Education Guide

Prison Legal News: December, 2015

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Volume 26, Number 12

In this issue:

  1. Aramark’s Correctional Food Services: Meals, Maggots and Misconduct (p 1)
  2. From the Editor (p 18)
  3. Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act Introduced with Broad Bipartisan Support (p 18)
  4. Arizona Jury Awards $3.4 Million against Owner of Sex Offender Websites (p 20)
  5. New Health Care Provider Picked for Oregon Jail after Audit Criticizes Corizon (p 22)
  6. Family of MCC Chicago Prisoner Settles Wrongful Death Claim for $700,000 (p 22)
  7. One of Two Charges Dropped against Former Texas Governor in Abuse-of-Power Case (p 24)
  8. Texas Prison Escapes Down Since “Texas Seven” (p 25)
  9. “No Hope for Me”: Women Stripped of Parental Rights after Minor Crimes (p 26)
  10. $350,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Prisoner’s Suicide (p 29)
  11. Miami-Dade Sex Offender Residency Ordinance Unsuccessfully Challenged (p 30)
  12. California Legislation Permitting NVDP Incarceration Held Unconstitutional (p 30)
  13. Racial Discrimination Costs Michigan DOC Over $1 Million (p 32)
  14. Second Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Abuses at Pennsylvania County Prison (p 32)
  15. Lawsuit Challenges Dental Care in Michigan Prisons (p 33)
  16. $451,000 Federal Jury Award for Illinois Prisoner Beaten by Jail Guard (p 34)
  17. Minnesota County Jail Pays $1 Million in Medical Neglect Case (p 34)
  18. Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules Amended Sex Offender Registration Law Ex Post Facto (p 35)
  19. Federal Court Finds Texas Violates Rights of Muslim Prisoners (p 36)
  20. Prison Ecology (p 39)
  21. Breaking News! FCC Votes to Further Reform Prison Phone Industry (p 40)
  22. Equal Justice Initiative Files Suit Over High Levels of Violence at Alabama Prison (p 42)
  23. Supermax Censorship Claimed by Prison Legal News (p 44)
  24. Oregon Corrections Enterprises Whistleblower Receives $450,000 for Wrongful Termination (p 44)
  25. Massachusetts Power Struggle over Cronyism Blocks Assistant Court Clerk Hiring (p 46)
  26. Texas Enacts Legislation to Reduce Wrongful Convictions (p 48)
  27. Michigan: Former Prisoners Must Repay Lawsuit Cash Advance Company (p 49)
  28. Follow the Money: Invisible Investors Seek Big Bucks in Mass Incarceration (p 50)
  29. One-Continuous-Sentence Rule Governs Colorado Parole Eligibility Dates (p 52)
  30. PLN Files Censorship Suit against Jail in Tulare County, California (p 53)
  31. Wrongfully Convicted Prisoners Released as New York Prosecutors Review Tainted Cases; $23.4 Million in Settlements Thus Far (p 54)
  32. Nebraska County Corrections Officials Fired (p 55)
  33. Idaho: FBI Declines to Press Criminal Charges against CCA for Falsified Staffing Records (p 56)
  34. Obama Administration Promises Transparency but Vigorously Prosecutes Whistleblowers (p 58)
  35. Privatized Prisoner Transportation Service Poses Problems (p 60)
  36. News in Brief (p 63)

Aramark’s Correctional Food Services: Meals, Maggots and Misconduct

Aramark’s Correctional Food Services: Meals, Maggots and Misconduct

by Christopher Zoukis and Rod L. Bower

Prison food service vendor Aramark was included among 132 businesses in 21 countries that were named the World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2015 by Ethisphere Institute, a self-described “global leader” in defining standards for ethical corporate practices. According to the Institute’s website, the designation bestowed upon Aramark “recognizes companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate those words into action.”

“Honorees not only promote ethical business standards and practices internally, they exceed legal compliance minimums and shape future industry standards by introducing best practices today,” the Institute said. The 2015 designation marked the sixth straight year that Aramark has been included on the World’s Most Ethical Companies list.

Aramark Correctional Services, the arm of the Philadelphia-based company that caters to prisons and jails, boasts that it “provides a wide range of food, facility and other customized support solutions to over 600 correctional facilities across North America,” preparing “well over 1,000,000 meals a day for state and municipal facilities, partnering with our clients to meet the unique challenges of the corrections environment.”

Moreover, Aramark’s website ...

From the Editor

From the Editor

by Paul Wright

With the holidays upon us, people outside of prison often think of holiday meals as times of joy and thankfulness for what they have in their lives. Where a shared meal around a dinner table with family and friends is viewed as a time for thanks and celebration, especially for those who are religious, holiday meals in prison are often an exercise in cruelty.

While prison food has long been the butt of jokes and complaints, the reality is that it has markedly deteriorated over the past 20 years. Not only is much of the food served to prisoners heavy on fats, starches and sodium, but it is often substandard, rotten and expired; to boot, many state prison systems have farmed out their food services to for-profit companies like Aramark, which, for a fixed price, will provide meals of questionable quality to prisoners while enriching themselves in the process. The less prisoners eat, the more money such companies make. Prisoners who observe religious faiths that have dietary restrictions face an even harsher reality of trying of maintain a healthy diet within the context of prison-imposed food.

This month’s cover story examines Aramark prison food ...

Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act Introduced with Broad Bipartisan Support

Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act Introduced with Broad Bipartisan Support

by Derek Gilna

According to its bipartisan sponsors, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123), introduced in the U.S. Senate on October 1, 2015, will have a major impact on the mandatory minimum sentencing regimen that has filled federal prisons with many non-violent offenders. Unlike all of the other legislation currently pending in Congress, this bill contains language that would have clear and unequivocal retroactive application to those already sentenced under certain mandatory minimums.

Specifically, the federal “three strikes” provision for drug offenses would be reduced from life without parole to 25 years, applied retroactively, and the 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for a second drug offense would be reduced to 15 years, also retroactively. Mandatory minimums for certain firearm-related offenses would be reduced, too.

Notably, the bill would make retroactive the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences, and expand the safety-valve provision for non-violent drug offenders with non-serious criminal histories.The effect of such statutory language can not be overstated, as it will eliminate many of the procedural hoops that federal prisoners have to jump through in order to ...

Arizona Jury Awards $3.4 Million against Owner of Sex Offender Websites

Arizona Jury Awards $3.4 Million against Owner of Sex Offender Websites

by Matt Clarke

In May 2014, a Maricopa County, Arizona jury awarded $3.4 million to people who were falsely profiled on private sex offender websites owned by businessman Charles “Chuck” Rodrick, 52, including SexOffenderrecord.com, Offendex.com and SORArchives.com. Rodrick was accused of falsely labeling people he didn’t like as being sex offenders, and extorting sex offenders to have their profiles removed from his sites.

Rodrick used public records from government agencies to compile much of the information on his sex offender websites, and the offenders’ profiles would appear in Google searches. A fee was charged to remove a profile after it was posted, though sometimes the profile would not be taken down even if payment was made. Sex offenders who did not pay were harassed online.

Adam Galvez, 39, who pleaded guilty to child molestation in 1996 and refused to pay to have his profile removed, decided to fight back. He founded the website Offendextortion.com, using it to expose Rodrick’s extortion of sex offenders; his site also profiles other websites that post mugshots then demand payment to remove the embarrassing photos. [See: PLN, Aug ...

New Health Care Provider Picked for Oregon Jail after Audit Criticizes Corizon

New Health Care Provider Picked for Oregon Jail after Audit Criticizes Corizon

by Mark Wilson

A Birmingham, Alabama health care company has taken over medical care at the Washington County jail in Hillsboro, Oregon in the wake of a scathing audit that led county officials to terminate a contract with Corizon Health two years early. The audit found that a lack of county oversight of the Corizon contract resulted in inadequate prisoner medical care and cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Birmingham-based NaphCare, Inc. assumed control over health care at the jail on June 1, 2015 under a contract to provide services to the approximately 570 prisoners at the facility.

“We are eager to embark on this partnership with NaphCare. They are an organization that shares our commitment to value-driven service while providing progressive medical care within our jail,” Sheriff Pat Garrett said in a statement.

In addition to selecting a new provider for jail health services, county officials stripped the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services of its responsibility for overseeing the contract, instead appointing the county Finance Department to do so.

A 34-page report issued by County Auditor John Hutzler in November 2014 ...

Family of MCC Chicago Prisoner Settles Wrongful Death Claim for $700,000

Family of MCC Chicago Prisoner Settles Wrongful Death Claim for $700,000

by Derek Gilna

Federal prisoner Habib Solebo entered the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Chicago, Illinois with a myriad of health problems despite his young age of 23, the most serious of which was a form of seizure ...

One of Two Charges Dropped against Former Texas Governor in Abuse-of-Power Case

One of Two Charges Dropped against Former Texas Governor in Abuse-of-Power Case

by Matt Clarke

One criminal charge has been dismissed in an abuse-of-power case filed against ex-Texas Governor Rick Perry, but a second charge remains pending that stems from his attempt to force the resignation of the district attorney for Travis County, Texas following her drunk driving arrest in 2013. The state appellate court ruling dismissing one of the charges drew praise from attorneys representing the former presidential candidate, while Perry’s critics viewed it as vindication that the criminal charges were not politically motivated.

The Third Court of Appeals dismissed a charge of coercion of a public servant in July 2015, finding that the law used to bring the charge violated Perry’s free speech rights.

“The statute on which the ‘coercion of a public servant’ is based, as written, and as we are bound to construe it, violates the First Amendment and, accordingly, cannot be enforced,” the appellate court wrote in a unanimous ruling. See: Ex parte Perry, 2015 Tex. App. LEXIS 7662 (Tex. App. July 24, 2015).

Perry still faces one count of abuse of official capacity, filed following the April 12, 2013 arrest of Travis County ...

Texas Prison Escapes Down Since “Texas Seven”

Texas Prison Escapes Down Since “Texas Seven”

by Matt Clarke

Officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) say the number of escapes from state prisons dropped sharply after seven prisoners staged a brazen break-out in 2001. Since 2012 there have been only three escapes from secure facilities, all in 2014; there were no escapes in 2012, 2013 or in 2015 as of November, the TDCJ reported.

Between 2002 and 2012, there was an average of just under three escapes per year from TDCJ facilities. The Lyncher State Jail reported the most with three, while the Hutchins State Jail and the Stringfellow, Ellis and Allred Units each reported two escapes during that period. Only one escapee remains at large, officials said.

All three of the prisoners who escaped in 2014 were recaptured. The first break-out occurred in the afternoon of April 26, 2014, when Kendrick Rishard Davis scaled two 12-foot fences topped with razor wire at the Kyle Unit and fled into a nearby wooded area. Authorities said guards at the facility, which is operated by the private company Management & Training Corporation, watched as Davis, wearing only his underwear, made his escape. The 34-year-old Davis, serving two 25-year sentences ...

“No Hope for Me”: Women Stripped of Parental Rights after Minor Crimes

“No Hope for Me”: Women Stripped of Parental Rights after Minor Crimes

by Sharona Coutts and Zoe Greenberg, RH Reality Check

Five years ago, LaDonna Hopkins was caught stealing clothes from a store in Rock Island County, Illinois. She wasn’t stealing them to wear, but to sell on the street. Still in the grips of what would be an 11-year battle with crack cocaine, Hopkins had assessed her options, and theft seemed the lesser evil.

“When you’re in addiction, there’s only three things you can do,” she told RH Reality Check. “You can rob somebody, or you can prostitute, or you can steal.”

After she was caught, Hopkins was sentenced to five years in Dwight state prison. She was pregnant at the time. She eventually served five months inside, and an additional two-and-a-half years in a women’s treatment center. The penalty may seem severe for a non-violent crime spurred by drug dependency, but for Hopkins the true punishment was not the prison term, but rather the permanent loss of her parental rights to her daughter.

“When I gave birth, I was allowed to spend 48 hours with my daughter in the hospital, and then I was shipped back to ...

$350,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Prisoner’s Suicide

$350,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Prisoner’s Suicide

by David Reutter

A $350,000 settlement was reportedly reached in the 2007 suicide of a prisoner at Pennsylvania’s Blair County Prison (BCP). The settlement included the prisoner’s personal physician as well as county defendants.

Following an injury to his right leg in ...

Miami-Dade Sex Offender Residency Ordinance Unsuccessfully Challenged

Miami-Dade Sex Offender Residency Ordinance Unsuccessfully Challenged

by David M. Reutter

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently challenged the constitutionality of a Miami-Dade County, Florida ordinance that, according to the organization, forces sex offenders on probation into homelessness by imposing residency restrictions so harsh there is literally no place where they are legally permitted to live.

The national ACLU and the ACLU of Florida filed suit against Miami-Dade County and the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) in federal court on October 23, 2014, seeking a permanent injunction against the ordinance, which prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of parks, bus stops, any structure the county declares to be a school or any place where children are likely to gather.

The restriction – two and-a-half times more expansive than required by the state – forced about 50 former offenders to move to a vacant parking lot on the outskirts of Miami where they sleep in tents, under tarps and in chairs surrounded by warehouses and railroad tracks, with no running water and no electricity, using a nearby field as a bathroom.

“As public policy, the Miami-Dade ordinance is a disaster,” declared Brandon Buskey, a staff attorney ...

California Legislation Permitting NVDP Incarceration Held Unconstitutional

California Legislation Permitting NVDP Incarceration Held Unconstitutional

by Mark Wilson

The California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, held on January 20, 2015 that a section of California’s realignment legislation improperly amended Proposition 36, a voter initiative, in violation of the state constitution.

In 2000, California voters enacted Prop 36, which requires substance abuse treatment rather than incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. Prop 36 prohibits the Board of Parole Hearings from revoking parole and incarcerating a parolee based on the commission of a nonviolent drug possession offense (NVDP) or violation of a drug-related parole condition.

In 2011, the California legislature enacted realignment legislation, including the Post-release Community Supervision Act (PCSA). The PCSA mandates that certain felons released from prison be placed on post-release community supervision rather than parole. Section 3455 of the PCSA authorizes the revocation of supervision and incarceration of offenders who violate their community supervision by committing an NVDP.

In 2011, Evan Taylor Armogeda was convicted of possessing a controlled substance. After serving a prison term he was released on community supervision. His supervision was revoked eight months later when he committed new drug-related crimes; the trial court sentenced him to 90 days in jail and ordered him to ...

Racial Discrimination Costs Michigan DOC Over $1 Million

Racial Discrimination Costs Michigan DOC Over $1 Million

by David Reutter

Last year, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) paid more than $1 million in damages in two lawsuits that accused the department of failing to take action despite having knowledge of blatant racism by an MDOC supervisor.

Faced with allegations that Sergio Paglia, a maintenance department supervisor, was discriminating against African-American employees, the MDOC conducted an investigation.

According to a mediation summary in one of the lawsuits, the MDOC “did its own internal investigation ... which found that Plaintiffs were discriminated against and their allegations were substantiated for discriminatory harassment.... Incredibly, despite this, the MDOC did nothing to address the racism, despite constant complaints from Plaintiff and other workers.”

Paglia was described by other MDOC employees as a “racist idiot” and a “bigot.” A press release issued by the attorneys representing prison workers who sued stated that Paglia “admitted in his deposition he has mental problems and sometimes he is other people (on the day he was served with the complaint he said he was George Washington). He says black people in America have not been discriminated against since the 1970’s and they need to stop whining.... Additionally ...

Second Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Abuses at Pennsylvania County Prison

Second Federal Lawsuit Filed Over Abuses at Pennsylvania County Prison

by David Reutter

A second federal lawsuit has been filed by a former prisoner at Pennsylvania’s York County Prison, alleging that his civil rights were violated by a pattern of abuse by guards that included forcing prisoners to fight each other, physically abusing prisoners and staging events that guards called the “Fight Club” and “Retard Olympics.” Three of the guards involved in the abusive incidents were criminally charged.

Former prisoner David M. Wright, 27, claimed that he was a victim of the abuse and faced retaliation after testifying at a preliminary hearing for the three guards who were charged. The lawsuit was filed on Wright’s behalf by attorney David M. Jacob, who gained local notoriety for requesting an FBI and U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations of excessive force by the Pennsylvania State Police and a local police department in York County.

Three of the guards named in the suit, Mark Andrew Haynes, 26, Daniel H. Graff, 37, and David Michael Whitcomb, 28, were charged in late 2013 with official oppression based on allegations similar to those contained in Wright’s lawsuit. They no longer work at the ...

Lawsuit Challenges Dental Care in Michigan Prisons

Lawsuit Challenges Dental Care in Michigan Prisons

by David Reutter

A lawsuit alleging the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) fails to provide prisoners with adequate and constitutional dental care was filed in federal court in April 2014.

“How do you eat with one tooth?” asked Daniel E. Manville, director of the Michigan State University College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, one of the attorneys representing the prisoners. “Dental care has always been a problem with MDOC going back over 30 years.”

The complaint, which sought class-action status, detailed the history of dental care received by the lead plaintiff, prisoner Robert Johannes, from May 2009 to June 2013. That history included numerous dental exams, fillings, X-rays and extractions. Johannes requested, on numerous occasions, to receive “partial bridges and/or dentures due to his loss of teeth and inability to eat hard foods or chew hard foods.” His requests were denied.

The suit alleges the care provided to Johannes is typical of that provided to other prisoners, and has resulted in a serious inhibition of “the ability to eat and chew chewy and/or hard foods, inability and/or loss of ability to masticate, causing pain and suffering, debilitated ...

$451,000 Federal Jury Award for Illinois Prisoner Beaten by Jail Guard

$451,000 Federal Jury Award for Illinois Prisoner Beaten by Jail Guard

by Matt Clarke

In March 2014, an Illinois federal jury awarded $451,000 to a pretrial detainee at the Cook County Jail who was severely beaten by a guard a dozen years earlier.

James Degorski, 41, filed a ...

Minnesota County Jail Pays $1 Million in Medical Neglect Case

Minnesota County Jail Pays $1 Million in Medical Neglect Case

by Lonnie Burton

In a settlement that is believed to be the largest of its kind for a medical neglect claim in the state of Minnesota, Hennepin County agreed to pay $1 million to a mentally ill prisoner who stabbed ...

Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules Amended Sex Offender Registration Law Ex Post Facto

Massachusetts Supreme Court Rules Amended Sex Offender Registration Law Ex Post Facto

by Gary Hunter

On July 12, 2013, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill requiring the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) to amend registry requirements for defendants classified as level two and level three sex offenders, under G.L. c.6, §§ 178D and 178K. Level two offenders are deemed only a moderate risk for reoffending, and prior to the new law, the Board was barred from publishing those offenders’ registry information online. Lawmakers deliberately sought to change that policy, and enacted a law that allowed the Board to retroactively post on the Internet information about level two sex offenders.

The move promptly resulted in a class-action suit on behalf of level two sex offenders in Massachusetts, who claimed the law constituted an ex post facto violation. On July 5, 2013, even before the governor had signed the bill into law, the plaintiffs filed a brief requesting class certification, declaratory judgment and injunctive relief enjoining the SORB from publishing registry information about level two sex offenders online.

Lower courts sided with lawmakers, but the state Supreme Court reversed the previous rulings, stating, “We conclude that ...

Federal Court Finds Texas Violates Rights of Muslim Prisoners

Federal Court Finds Texas Violates Rights of Muslim Prisoners

by Matt Clarke

On April 30, 2014, a federal district court held that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) was violating the constitutional rights of Muslim prisoners by limiting their religious services to one hour per week unless a volunteer ...

Prison Ecology

Prison Ecology

by Dashka Slater

On a February evening in 2005, a couple hundred people showed up at a public hearing at Oak Grove High School in north-central Alabama to complain about sewage in the tributaries of the Black Warrior River, a popular site for swimming, boating and fishing. The source was the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, which held some 1,500 prisoners even though it had been built to house fewer than half that many.

“Rest assured that if any one of us was dumping raw sewage into the river, we would be heavily fined and locked up in the very prison we’re discussing,” observed Buddy Vines, described in the next day’s Birmingham News as “a lifelong resident of property along the river.”

People had been complaining about the sewage for years, but Alabama’s Department of Corrections and Department of Environmental Management failed to take effective action, and so the dumping continued for another nine years. It took multiple lawsuits by Black Warrior Riverkeeper, an Alabama nonprofit, to get the Department of Corrections to agree to a plan for repairing and upgrading the prison’s sewage plant. 

Donaldson’s problems are multiplied across the country. The United States incarcerates 716 out ...

Breaking News! FCC Votes to Further Reform Prison Phone Industry

Breaking News! FCC Votes to Further Reform Prison Phone Industry

by Carrie Wilkinson

The cover story of the December 2013 issue of Prison Legal News was titled “FCC Order Heralds Hope for Reform of Prison Phone Industry.” It included a primer on prison and jail phone services, and detailed a landmark decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that capped the cost of interstate (long distance) rates for phone calls made by prisoners and enacted other reforms. The cover story concluded by saying, “Lady Justice may be blind, but judging from the FCC’s order she is not deaf – and the pleas of prisoners and their families for reform of the abusive prison phone industry are finally being heard loud and clear.”

Exactly two years later in this issue of PLN, after much work by the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), our partners in the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and other advocates, we can report that not only are the voices of prisoners and their families still being heard at the national level, but long-awaited relief is coming as the result of yet another historic FCC rulemaking decision.

On October 22, 2015, the Commission voted 3-2 along ...

Equal Justice Initiative Files Suit Over High Levels of Violence at Alabama Prison

Equal Justice Initiative Files Suit Over High Levels of Violence at Alabama Prison

by Joe Watson

The Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) filed suit against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) on October 13, 2014, alleging the department had done nothing to stem what the non-profit organization called an “increasingly dangerous security situation” and “extraordinarily high rate of violence” at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama, which gave the prison the dubious distinction of having “one of the highest rates of homicide violence in the nation.”

EJI said it asked then-ADOC Commissioner Kim Thomas to investigate “the alarming rate of homicides and assaults at St. Clair” under the leadership of Warden Carter Davenport, but Thomas never took action. Following its initial request, EJI reported the murder of two more prisoners at the severely overcrowded facility, and noted that during Warden Davenport’s tenure, “fatal and non-fatal stabbing incidents have escalated at St. Clair, with at least six homicides in the past thirty-six months and multiple inmates suffering near-fatal injuries that have required extended offsite hospital treatment.”

The number of homicides at St. Clair is just one indicator of dangerous conditions in Alabama’s state prisons, according to ...

Supermax Censorship Claimed by Prison Legal News

Supermax Censorship Claimed by Prison Legal News

by Alan Prendergast

The U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum outside Florence, Colorado, better known as ADX, has a deserved reputation as the highest-security supermax prison on the planet. It houses some of the most notorious prisoners in North America – from Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and shoe bomber Richard Reid to Aryan Brotherhood leader Barry Mills, double agent Robert Hanssen and Colombian guerrilla leader Simon Trinidad – in 23-hour-a-day, escape-proof lockdown. 

Among human rights activists, though, ADX is controversial not just for what it keeps in but what it manages to keep out. Proper treatment of the mentally ill, for one thing; a massive lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons alleges a history of abuse of delusional, self-mutilating prisoners. Journalists, for another; as first reported in Westword several years ago, the prison has, contrary to stated BOP policy, routinely denied every reporter’s request for a face-to-face interview with an ADX prisoner since 2001. Aside from one tightly supervised media tour in 2007, that practice continues today.

Officials at ADX also seem intent on keeping out Prison Legal News, a feisty monthly magazine with readers among the incarcerated in all fifty states – including nineteen subscribers at ADX ...

Oregon Corrections Enterprises Whistleblower Receives $450,000 for Wrongful Termination

Oregon Corrections Enterprises Whistleblower Receives $450,000 for Wrongful Termination

by Derek Gilna

Rob Killgore, former director of Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE), who was fired by Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Colette S. Peters after he came forward as a whistleblower alleging wrongdoing in both agencies, settled his wrongful termination claim against the state for $450,000. Peters fired Killgore after his allegations were made public in 2013, saying she wanted to move OCE in a different direction.

OCE is the state agency tasked with providing industry work opportunities for Oregon’s prison population; money not paid in wages to prisoners and other expenses is available to be used for various projects consistent with its mission.

Killgore, who was appointed director of OCE in 2002, had alleged that the culture of the agency compelled or at least strongly encouraged the employment of people suggested by the DOC, as well as the purchase of various items and funding of activities that he felt were inconsistent with OCE’s mission.

A 2013 investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice into his accusations found no criminal conduct. The Justice Department did agree, however, that the practice of corrections officials strongly suggesting that OCE provide ...

Massachusetts Power Struggle over Cronyism Blocks Assistant Court Clerk Hiring

Massachusetts Power Struggle over Cronyism Blocks Assistant Court Clerk Hiring

by Mark Wilson

An apparent power struggle over the proposed hiring of an assistant clerk in the Hingham District Court in Massachusetts, southeast of Boston, has blocked the daughter of a prominent attorney from taking the $104,000 position, leaving her in her current job as an associate probation officer, where she earns $49,125 a year.

Observers say the hiring decision was a test of the reforms enacted following a 2010 statewide scandal that led to the conviction and sentencing of the state’s former probation commissioner and two deputies.

Maura E. Jubinville, 32, was recommended for the assistant clerk position in 2013 by Hingham District Court Clerk Magistrate Joseph A. Ligotti. Jubinville is the daughter of attorney and former State Police detective Robert Jubinville, who was elected to the Massachusetts Governor’s Council in 2012 and has close personal ties to Ligotti.

Ligotti himself has blemishes on his record; he was twice disciplined by the Supreme Judicial Council for misconduct, including abusive behavior toward the public and issuing an illegal arrest warrant. In 2001, he was accused of helping the State Police earn extra overtime pay by encouraging citizens to ...

Texas Enacts Legislation to Reduce Wrongful Convictions

Texas Enacts Legislation to Reduce Wrongful Convictions

by Matt Clarke

Legal experts in Texas are trying to iron out a wrinkle they say is an unintended consequence arising from a new law governing discovery in criminal cases, but despite the glitch, the statute has been hailed as landmark legislation aimed at stemming a flood of wrongful convictions resulting from the state’s punitive criminal justice system.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the Michael Morton Act into law on May 16, 2013, which expanded discovery rules and prevented the suppression of evidence by prosecutors, essentially creating an “open file” policy requiring prosecutors to hand over virtually all files to defense attorneys. The law took effect on January 1, 2014.

“This is a major victory for integrity and fairness in our judicial system,” Perry said when signing the bill. “We are known as a law and order state, and as such we’ve never been easy on those convicted of a crime in our state. With that tradition, however comes a very powerful responsibility to make sure our judicial process is transparent and is as open as humanely possible.”

The bill, SB 1611, passed unanimously in both houses of the Texas ...

Michigan: Former Prisoners Must Repay Lawsuit Cash Advance Company

Michigan: Former Prisoners Must Repay Lawsuit Cash Advance Company

by David Reutter

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court’s ruling that required eight former prisoners to repay a company that purchased a contingent portion of their lawsuit settlement.

The appellate decision affirmed the judgment of a Michigan federal district court in favor of Money for Lawsuits (MFL), which invests in litigation “by purchasing a contingent right to receive a portion of the plaintiff’s settlement or judgment proceeds.”

MFL had paid about $860,000 to eight former female prisoners who were part of a class-action lawsuit that claimed male prison guards systematically engaged in sexual harassment and abuse. The suit resulted in a $100 million settlement with the State of Michigan. [See: PLN, Dec. 2009, p.30].

The eight women received nearly $5 million from the settlement, and MFL claimed that with interest the former prisoners owed the company about $4.2 million. After they refused to pay, MFL filed suit.

The federal district court ruled in favor of MFL. The women’s attorney, Ralph J. Sirlin, appealed and argued the company had violated Michigan’s usury laws. MFL charges interest of more than 80 percent annually in ...

Follow the Money: Invisible Investors Seek Big Bucks in Mass Incarceration

by James Kilgore and Brian Dolinar, Truthout

When authorities booked Richard Murphy into the jail in Monterey, California on January 18, 2013, the war veteran likely never envisioned ending up being back in court months later, not to face criminal charges, but to expose the abuse he would suffer at the hands of the jail’s private health-care provider.

His saga began when he complained to guards about his injured back. Before his arrest he managed the pain with prescribed medication and regular cortisone shots, neither of which he could get in jail. Despite his repeated pleas, it took several months to get even a cane. During this time, he could not get out of bed without serious pain, and his condition worsened.

In addition, Murphy had a severe mental illness. He received no attention from jail authorities even after claiming he heard demonic voices and felt suicidal. In a sick call note, he complained, “I’m a disabled vet who served my country with honorable discharge and should not be treated like trash over an officer’s attitude.”

On at least five occasions, the guards responded by putting him in a “rubber room,” where he was stripped naked and ...

One-Continuous-Sentence Rule Governs Colorado Parole Eligibility Dates

One-Continuous-Sentence Rule Governs Colorado Parole Eligibility Dates

by Mark Wilson

The Colorado Supreme Court held last year that state prison officials had misapplied the law and miscalculated a prisoner’s parole eligibility date (PED) for his consecutive sentence.

Colorado law requires the Department of Corrections (DOC) to treat a prisoner’s consecutive sentences “as one continuous sentence.” See: Section 17-22.5-101. This is true even when the sentences are for unrelated crimes and imposed at different times. Under Section 17-22.5-403(1), a prisoner is eligible for parole after serving 50 percent of the sentence.

On May 13, 2003, Jeffrey T. Nowak began serving an eight-year prison term. Under Section 17-22.5-403(1), the DOC calculated his PED as July 3, 2006 (i.e., 50 percent of his eight-year sentence).

After reaching his PED, Nowak absconded while on temporary leave. He was subsequently convicted of escape and sentenced to twelve years in prison, consecutive to his original sentence. He began serving his new sentence on July 13, 2007.

Since Nowak had already reached his PED on the initial sentence before committing the new crime of escape, the DOC “ignored” his 2003 conviction and established a PED in 2012, calculated from the ...

PLN Files Censorship Suit against Jail in Tulare County, California

PLN Files Censorship Suit against Jail in Tulare County, California

On October 29, 2015, Prison Legal News filed a federal lawsuit alleging unconstitutional censorship of publications sent to prisoners at the Bob Wiley Detention Facility in Tulare County, California. The complaint names the county, Sheriff-Coroner Mike Boudreaux and various jail employees as defendants.

According to the suit, PLN, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), “engages in core protected speech and expressive conduct on matters of public concern, such as the operation of prison facilities, prison conditions, prisoner health and safety, and prisoners’ rights.”

Since September 2013, PLN has mailed at least 336 issues of its monthly publication to prisoners at the Bob Wiley Detention Facility that were censored by jail officials; sometimes the issues were sent back marked “Return to Sender” with no explanation provided. PLN was not afforded an opportunity to appeal the jail’s censorship decisions.

Several prisoners indicated that PLN’s publication was being rejected because it is bound with small metal staples. However, PLN noted in its complaint that the facility has “allowed other publications containing staples to be delivered to prisoners,” specifically citing evidence of delivery of a Christian publication – Our ...

Wrongfully Convicted Prisoners Released as New York Prosecutors Review Tainted Cases; $23.4 Million in Settlements Thus Far

Wrongfully Convicted Prisoners Released as New York Prosecutors Review Tainted Cases; $23.4 Million in Settlements Thus Far

by Mark Wilson

Scores of prisoners from New York City have claimed for years that they were framed by now-retired Brooklyn Detective Louis Scarcella, 63. Based on an investigation into Scarcella’s tactics as well as successful court challenges, it turns out that some of them were.

After 23 years in prison, David Ranta was released in March 2013 when the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office documented a series of problems with Scarcella’s work on his case. Ranta, convicted of fatally shooting a rabbi, accepted a $6.4 million settlement for his wrongful conviction in February 2014; he was one of at least nine prisoners who have been exonerated due to tainted or outright falsified evidence presented or orchestrated by Scarcella during his almost 30 years on the police force.

Following a New York Times investigation of the retired detective, in May 2013 the District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit decided to review 71 of Scarcella’s cases once it became clear that he likely helped frame an innocent man and repeatedly used the same pivotal eyewitness in some of his cases – identified as Teresa ...

Nebraska County Corrections Officials Fired

Nebraska County Corrections Officials Fired

Hall County, Nebraska corrections director Fred Ruiz and assistant director Jimmy Vann were fired on August 20, 2015 after the county board met with special investigators hired to review management and operational concerns at the Hall County jail.

The investigation began after long-time jail Sgt. Debb Rea retired and submitted a letter describing her concerns about the facility to board members. She wrote that she was forced to step down due to illegal conduct at the jail; following four hours of closed-door meetings, Ruiz and Vann were relieved of their duties. Four former jail employees, with 71 years of combined experience, attended the board meetings to show their support, all saying they had left their jobs due to management issues under Ruiz and Vann.

One of the employees said Ruiz had told him that in order to get ahead he would have to “kiss the ring.” Another former worker alleged that under the leadership of Ruiz and Vann, the jail had become a “good old boys’ club.”

Randy Houser, who was appointed interim director at the jail after Ruiz and Vann were terminated, quit only a week after he was hired on August ...

Idaho: FBI Declines to Press Criminal Charges against CCA for Falsified Staffing Records

Idaho: FBI Declines to Press Criminal Charges against CCA for Falsified Staffing Records

by Joe Watson and Mark Wilson

The FBI will not pursue criminal charges following a 15-month investigation into allegations that the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), understaffed the Idaho Correctional Center and falsified records to hide thousands of hours of vacant shifts, which resulted in increased levels of violence at the facility.

“The FBI’s detailed and thorough investigation did not produce evidence of a federal criminal violation,” U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced on May 22, 2015. “Rather, the evidence showed that the false entries and understaffing could be attributed only to relatively low-level CCA employees.”

“No evidence obtained during the investigation showed that any CCA employee at the assistant warden level or above participated in creating the falsified rosters, or affirmatively knew that rosters were falsified at the time they were falsified,” she continued. “Likewise, no evidence showed that the false entries were made by the low-level employees with the intent to defraud the state of Idaho of money or property, as is required under the federal criminal fraud statutes.”

Olson said the FBI probe also ...

Obama Administration Promises Transparency but Vigorously Prosecutes Whistleblowers

Obama Administration Promises Transparency but Vigorously Prosecutes Whistleblowers

by Matt Clarke

In 2009, President Barack Obama promised a more transparent, whistleblower-friendly government. Obama claims he delivered on that promise with his November 27, 2012 signing of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, especially since he issued a White House policy directive to executive branch agencies extending the Act to include security and intelligence workers, positions not included in the original legislation.

But what the Obama administration has done is just the opposite: vigorous prosecutions of at least eight whistleblowers or leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act, more than double that of all other presidents combined. According to American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Gabe Rottman, “The Obama administration has secured 526 months of prison time for national security leakers, versus only 24 months total jail time for everyone else since the American Revolution.”

Another aspect of the administration’s war on whistleblowers is a double standard – while all of the prison time has been imposed on lower-level employees, high-ranking and well-connected officials who have also leaked sensitive national security information have not faced jail time or had their reputations ruined.

Perhaps the most glaring example is the case of General ...

Privatized Prisoner Transportation Service Poses Problems

Privatized Prisoner Transportation Service Poses Problems

by David M. Reutter

Several lawsuits against the self-proclaimed “nation’s largest prisoner extradition company and one of the largest international transporters of detainees” have cast a harsh light on a contractor hired to fulfill the traditional government role of transporting prisoners from place to place. Critics say it’s an example of what can happen when public agencies turn to private-sector, profit-driven companies in an effort to trim budgets.

In a lawsuit filed on May 29, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, former prisoner Darren Richardson claims he was the victim of “outrageous conduct” at the hands of Nashville, Tennessee-based Prisoner Transportation Services of America, LLC (PTS). The suit alleges violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as negligence, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Richardson says he suffered possibly permanent damage as a result of the transport company’s failure to provide humane treatment and medical care.

According to his complaint, Richardson was arrested in his home state of Florida in May 2013 for failing to pay $250 to the Court of Common Pleas in Pike County, Pennsylvania after completing probation in ...

News in Brief

California: On May 13, 2015, attorneys for Carlos Carasquilla and his wife filed a $15 million lawsuit against Tulare County alleging that guards opened a cell door to allow and encourage Carasquilla’s fellow prisoners to viciously beat him. Carasquilla had been jailed on a warrant for inappropriate contact with a minor – an offense that happened 12 years earlier and was only brought to light when the accuser was in her late 20s. Guards made it known that Carasquilla was a “child molester,” and 16 other prisoners attacked him on July 20, 2014. He received only minimal medical care at the jail after the beating, and later had to undergo surgery for facial fractures.

California: Unsanitary conditions at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, from leaky pipes and rodent droppings to lack of hot water and improper food storage, were disclosed in a report obtained by Reuters news service on May 13, 2015. The 109-page report was part of a regular review of the 87-year-old-facility. State Senator Loni Hancock called for the closure of the prison, stating, “The report is shocking, talking about rats and cockroaches and standing water, wastewater not draining.” CDCR spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said that ...


 

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